Someone complained about claims on the www.virginmedia.com website where they are promoting their up to 60 Mbps broadband service. The webpage contained a table suggesting how long certain tasks would take e.g. "Average download times with up to 60Mb broadband Album 9 secs TV show 54 secs Movie 2.5 mins HD movie 10 mins". The ASA has now published its judgment on this complaint.
Virgin Media in its response said that the HD movie file size was on average 4GB, though they had incorrectly stated a size of 5GB in their footnotes attached to the table. The size difference of 1GB is critical, as the extra usage triggers the fair usage mechanisms that operate between 4pm and 9pm each day. With the 4GB size, and assuming customers could achieve 90% of their numerical maximum speed it would take 9.9 minutes to download the HD file. The speed monitoring of the network suggested actual times would be closer to 9 minutes, i.e. even faster.
"We acknowledged that small print stated '… Traffic Management operates from 4pm to 9pm and 10am to 3pm to ensure a consistent user experience' and included a link to the full details of the traffic management policy. We considered, however, that was not sufficient to make clear that the traffic management policy meant users' numerical maximum speeds might be restricted in such a way that they could not download the material in the average times listed if they breached the 5 GB download limit during peak hours and that the download limit could be breached by downloading more than one HD film. We considered that was a significant factor that affected the advertised service and that it therefore should have been made clear in the body copy of the ad."Extract from ASA adjudication
The ASA has thus ruled that the advert/table must not appear in its current form again, and appropriate substantiation must be available to support future duration of download speed claims.
This raises the wider question, of how good are speed tests in assessing a connection, particularly in cases where providers manage a connection based on your level of usage, and which sort of users are being monitored as part of the speed testing. If average users that consume perhaps 10 to 20GB of data a month are monitored, any results may be totally useless to those who have embraced a superfast service and use it to constantly watch streamed video, and thus trigger limits two or three times a week.